Teams and collaboration Teams and collaboration

What you can do against failing collaboration among teams

Is your company set up to encourage collaboration between teams?
3 mins read

As most, you may agree, that collaboration is key in business. It is key to execute initiatives, to launch innovations or to run the business. You will also agree, that there should be better collaboration across silos. Changes in customer preferences or in the external environment demand more adaptability.

In a larger survey, 65% of the respondents said, that they see the importance of team work. But only a single digit percentage saw that their company is ready for that.

You may wonder why this is. This topic is not new. By now, organizations should be able to resolve problems with collaboration among teams.

Most people can pinpoint the obstacles to collaboration [2]. The top 5 reasons are:

  • siloed organization,
  • risk-averse culture,
  • no clear vision from leadership,
  • fear of loss of management control,
  • lack of workforce time for collaboration.

A recent study among 66 organizations shed some more light into this topic [3]. They revealed six types of of dysfunctions that can bubble up, if left unaddressed:

  1. Ridged hierarchy: Excessive reliance on formal and informal leaders for decision making,
  2. Disconnection within the teams: Marginalized team members or teams left out of collaboration,
  3. Misalignment among teams: Pursuing different agendas,
  4. Overwhelming demand: demand on collaboration exceeds the capacity of all participants,
  5. Isolation: Impermeable group borders for input from stakeholders or external resources,
  6. Priority overload: Having to many priorities at once.

There are solutions to all those problems. Most are common sense. But still they are difficult to put in place. To name a few, clarifying roles, decision rights or incentives sound easy. Touching these things often need changes in processes or structures. Living under new conditions will also trigger painful responses to the way the work is done.

And still there is no alternative to it. Teams must address their problems. Putting the problems under the carpet will not bring any improvements. Teams and team members must speak up and use constructive conflicts for betterment. Teams shape their own destiny through collaboration.

To do so, teams must subscribe to values like transparency, trust, and customer focus. But they must learn to leverage their own and others strengths for the common goal. They must be honest about their own capabilities and accept support from others, if they see the need for it. They must know where they are on their own learning curve and how to manage it.

Becoming better in the art of collaboration bears massive chances. For organizations it is obvious, they will flourish. They can tackle even the most difficult problems of our time. They become adaptable and can see and grab the opportunities as they come along.

 

For individuals there are also huge benefits. By fostering the relationships among people in the networks they become more resilient. They gain clarity in seeing perspective and vision. They can better manage their own work loads. They improve in sense making. They bring joy and positive emotions into their lives through empathy and humor. They will improve communication skills and creativity. They will seek the best fits to contribute and to master self development.

Promoting collaboration

To get started, follow along:

(1) Top managers are the most important forces in promoting collaboration. They must role model good collaboration, and transform organizational cultures from silos to engagement.

(2) They need to applying best practices, identifying and promoting critical behaviors and redesigning workforce incentives, workplace design, or formal policies that support collaboration.

(3) They need to switch to radical transparency in roles, in goals, and in information.

(4) They need to provide the room for people making connections, build trust and to learn together, by e.g. supporting open space exchanges, learning boards or providing temporary job rotations among silos.

For sure there is much more you can do. Some interventions will be specific to the situation you are in. Take the points 1-4 as a good basis, the hygiene factors for collaboration.

The virus has changed a lot. It is time to question long hold beliefs and to think again. Consider the virus as an invitation to let go of views that are no longer serving us well. Massive chances ahead! Get started today!

[1] 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends ( ~10.000 people ~ 30 countries),

[2] 2017, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Survey

[3] MIT Sloan Management Review, Winter Issue 2021

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